“Information wants to be free” (almost)

Posted by jlubans on February 28, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

The qualifier – almost - explains why since back in the day (1984, no less!) we have competing systems: vast ranges of free information and numerous fenced in sources of information.
We now know much of the Internet is not free.
Nor is there a middle class in the Internet economy.
There are the Have Nots, all of us under the long, long tail of the Internet and there are the Haves up front.
The Haves are a peculiar sort, because they do not provide content – the words, pictures, videos, selfies, and essays.
The Haves arrange the content and control the content. They manage it and they monetize it.
In other words, never have so many written so much for free to be read by so few so what they write can be monetized by a few, namely Google and Facebook through advertising revenue.
It is as simple as that. There is nothing innovative about this. What is new is that the exploitation has never been so complicit or gigantic.
When will content providers (including those of us who share cute cat videos or travel photos or who write blogs come to terms with this?
To their credit, the Haves created mechanisms for the “sharing” of the content and for linking to the content.
What about the Have Nots?
Yes, we are willing participants.
We seek “likes”, we seek “comments”, we want to share – often we are happy to make our information free.
But do we really want to do that so a very few benefit while we get nothing back beyond a little recognition or fleeting pleasure?
A few days ago the WSJ wrote about proposed legislation that would permit publishers to engage in collective bargaining with those profiting from their content.
Facebook’s news stream, visited by millions we are told, does not pay for the news to which it links.
It does pay for the mechanism of spotting trends (however slanted) via human or machine means, but the linked-to content is free to Facebook or to Drudge or to Google.
Presumably, the content provider does have the opportunity to advertise or to push readers to buy their publications. However, this incidental revenue is tiny when compared to the ad revenue earned by the aggregators.
Understandably, the publishers seeing their profits declining, news rooms depleting and the aggregators profits sky rocketing, want a piece of the action.
The legislation would allow publishers, as a combine, to set prices and to seek compensation from those making profit from their work.
How much? Well, the WSJ has this to say: Facebook... generated $40 billion in annual revenue from its ability to narrowly target advertisers’ messages to receptive audiences." I am not at all sure about how "receptive" any of the audiences are!
Well, then, what about this blog? I do not seek a profit (nor should I since under the present system revenue is almost impossible.) You could say my information really does want to be free, almost has to be free, if anyone is to read it!
If I want to “boost” this blog post (the one you are reading) according to Facebook, I can pay them $53.00 to “reach” 48,000 strangers on Facebook. That’s for one post.
I suspect were my IP address in Moscow (Russia not Idaho) my post would be boosted as well as long as my credit card paid for it. Add several thousand rubles and I can "reach" several hundred thousand strangers.
The “reach” is manifest in those annoying “boosts” of opinion and products, etc that come out of nowhere on your personal Facebook page mixed in with updates from friends and political rants.
Facebook assures me, “Others like you are doing this” so I too should join in boosting. In other words the already congested and polluted pages of Facebook are to become even more cluttered and I am to pay for it.
What’s the sense of that?
As well, I imagine I could do some advertising or "boosting" on Google. As long as I pay for it.
One small step. I will close the archives to my Leadig from the Middle blog (published twice weekly since March of 2010). My doing so will have zero effect but for me to gain control of my work. If others like me do the same, the Haves might need to come to terms with adding value to our work.
So, does "information want to be free"?
Let's return to the failed premise from which that 1984 quote arose: "information almost wants to be free because the costs of getting it out is getting lower and lower all of the time." The costs of "getting it out" may indeed be ever decreasing, but the costs of creating it have never been higher.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“The Wise Old Bunny”: The Hares and the Frogs*

Posted by jlubans on February 23, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Edward Eksergian Self-portrait, illustrator for Thummel’s “Aesop in Rhyme.”

The hares assembled in solemn convention,
Resolved it was their united intention
To die, life being naught but trembling and fear;
For waking or sleeping some danger was near.
‘And we prefer death. Now, what route shall we
With one voice they all cried: ‘Let’s drown in the
Neither old nor young would wait for the morrow,
But made haste to the lake to there end his sorrow.
By the side of the lake some innocent frogs,
Were hopping and jumping among some old logs.
These hearing the hares, and ‘most frightened to
Jumped into the lake, each holding his breath.
Then one old hare, who from age had grown wise,
Cried out: ‘Hold, brothers!’ much to their sur-
‘By this act of the frogs it seems clear to me,
There are more unfortunate creatures than we.’

Though your burdens are heavy and hard to bear,
Remember that others have also their share.
As absurd as the suicidal Soviet dissident, gun to temple, who when surrounded by the gun toting KGB, exclaims: “Don’t shoot!”
So, the wise old bunny sees an honorable way out of the suicide pact and saves the hares for another day of sweet life, sunrises and sunsets, however near danger.
In the workplace, it is often the contrarian view that jostles us out of our groupthink and brakes our slipping over the precipice.
Always encourage the workplace’s lovable fool or jester or contrarian; his or her patter may save us from a like-minded rush to disaster.

*Source: Aesop in Rhyme by Mary Leone Gilliam Thummel with illustrations by Edward Eksergian. St. Louis, MO? 1906.
A Note on Finding Ms. Thummel.
Suggestive of search engine flaws, is what we DO NOT know about Mary Thummel.
Google offers us no obituary, no notices from the local papers of St. Louis, no listings in author directories.
All we know is that she authored two books, the Aesop and another about government, a school textbook from 1897.
Turning away from the “World’s Information Desk” (Google), other sources might reveal much more about Ms. Thummel.
You’ll find those sources either blocked by pay-walls or only in print-on-paper format: local newspapers, street directories, tax records, state and national directories (like Who’s Who), local histories, birth and death notices, and records of literary societies, etc.
Libraries are the only places to find non-digital formats.
And, the better the librarian the more you will learn.
Forget the notion that all you need is on Google. It’s not.
Apropos of Ms. Thummel’s St Louis, the Fables for Leaders Library of the week is the St. Louis Public Library, Missouri, USA!
For more fables to guide one’s leadership or followership, get your copy of “Fables for Leaders” at Amazon. Or get your library to order a copy. Just tell the information desk person you want the book!

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

Malicious Mouser*

Posted by jlubans on February 16, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Getting an earful. Illustration by Edward Eksergian, 1906.

“In the top of a tree was an old eagle's nest,
Where she and her young with contentment were blest.
A sow and her family took up their abode
In the hollow trunk, just close on the road,
While a wild cat reposed in a hole in the middle,
And all went as happy and gay as a fiddle,
Till the cat, with her evil and treacherous mind,
Which to trouble and mischief was always inclined,
Crept up to the eagle and said, ‘Woe is me!
The old sow I am sure is uprooting the tree!
She will root all around till down it will fall,
And then she'll devour us, young ones, and all!’
The eagle, affrighted, would not leave her brood,
Lest they all perish while she went for food.
This done, the old cat went down to the sow,
Saying, ‘Friend, I'll tell yon, you'll have trouble now,
The old eagle is watching till you go away,
To get one of your piggies for dinner today.’
The sow was now frightened as much as the eagle,
And nothing could her from the hollow inveigle,
So both of these families were starved in the tree,
And the wild cat and her young ones feasted in glee.
The friend who drops in to slander a neighbor
Is more to be shunned than a foe with a saber.”

And there you have it, how to sow dissent in an organization.
The Malicious Mouser, seen at tree’s base, undermines trust and brings ruin with her slander.
How often have I fallen for this ploy? How about you?
The antidote has always been for direct communication between the aggrieved; go direct to the alleged wrong doer. You’ll discover no wretched plot or plan, other than that cooked up by the go-between.
The go-between – inclined for “trouble and mischief” - always has his or her own agenda, as they say, and I can assure you it is never for your benefit.
Is not that the point of all gossip, to turn one against the other, to pretend a moral superiority to others?
Samantha Hines review of Fables suggests that the book could be a way to broach and air workplace problems.
Thummel’s clever verse just might get people talking about trust and how to keep it strong and sturdy.

*Source: Aesop in Rhyme by Mary Leone Gilliam Thummel with illustrations by Edward Eksergian. St. Louis, MO? 1906.

Fables for Leaders Library of the Week: University of Arkansas University Library, Fayetteville, AR, USA

Get your copy of Fables for Leaders at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“(T)horoughly enjoyable both in content and in design…”

Posted by jlubans on February 14, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Samantha Hines, the editor of the PNLA Quarterly, reviews “Fables for Leaders” in the February issue.
You can click on the review from the table of contents.
Or you can go directly to the review by clicking here.
Ms. Hines thoughtful and insightful review includes suggestions for using the book for raising staff awareness and understanding of organizational issues.
Quoting Hines:
“The presentation of the fables and accompanying text provides an excellent launching point for conversation among fellow library workers. I could see this book being the basis of a leadership discussion group, with meetings to discuss one or two of the fables at a time. Discussing a fable might also liven up a staff meeting or serve as an icebreaker activity for an association or organizational retreat.”
So, “Hear ye, Hear ye” aspiring leaders and followers: Get a copy of “Fables for Leaders” and try out her ideas. You will not regret it.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018


Posted by jlubans on February 09, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Illustration by Percy J. Billinghurst (1871 -1933)

Whoe’er by practice indiscreet
Has pass’d for a notorious cheat,
Will shortly find his credit fail,

Though he speak truth, says Esop’s tale.
The Wolf the Fox for theft arraign’d;
The Fox her innocence maintain’d:
The Ape, as umpire, takes his seat;
Each pleads his cause with skill and heat.
Then thus the Ape, with aspect grave,
The sentence from the hustings gave:
“For you, Sir Wolf, I do descry
That all your losses are a lie—
And you, with negatives so stout,
O Fox! have stolen the goods no doubt.”

And so it can be at work.
If you are a lowdown, deceitful, conniving, treacherous double dealer, well what would you expect your work mates to think when you do something right? (“Can’t Even Do Wrong Right” comes to mind)
Or, as one moralist puts it: “The dishonest, if they act honestly, get no credit.”

*Source: The Fables of Phaedrus Translated into English Verse. Phaedrus. Christopher Smart, A. M. London. G. Bell and Sons, Ltd. 1913.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018

“Original, practical and worthy”

Posted by jlubans on February 06, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)


TD, the magazine of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), reviews Fables for Leaders in its February print issue:
“… this self-proclaimed "anti-textbook" is simply a collection of fables and commentary centered around the idea that people have spent thousands of years learning from stories, and that those stories still have lessons for today.
… (T)his book is original, practical, and worthy of a spot on any leader's shelf.”
For the full review, please click here.
TD is ATD’s flagship print publication, with a readership of 120,000, sharing best practices with high-level training professionals.

Posted by jlubans on February 06, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Friday Fable. Phaedrus’ “THE PROUD FROG”*

Posted by jlubans on February 02, 2018  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Who croaks first?

“When poor men to expenses run,
And ape their betters, they’re undone.

An Ox the Frog a-grazing view’d,
And envying his magnitude,
She puffs her wrinkled skin, and tries
To vie with his enormous size:
Then asks her young to own at least
That she was bigger than the beast.
They answer, No. With might and main
She swells and strains, and swells again.
“Now for it, who has got the day?”
The Ox is larger still, they say.
At length, with more and more ado,
She raged and puffed, and burst in two.”

Right now I am in Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico, where not long ago one could buy froggy souvenirs: blown up, taxidermied frogs downing beer, playing the saxophone, the trumpet, the accordion and the guitar, or dealing cards and smoking cigars; whatever your gringo heart might desire.
Alas, the “raged and puffed, and burst” condition can afflict the less than mighty among us who profess to be wiser, better, cooler, etc.
Apoplexy in humans is often caused by overweening ambition just like for the “proud frog”.
So, entertain yourself at your next panel of experts by listening for loud popping noises.

**Source: The Fables of Phaedrus Translated into English Verse. Phaedrus. Christopher Smart, A. M. London. G. Bell and Sons, Ltd. 1913.

“Fables for Leaders” Library of the Week: The Veterinary Medicine Library of the North Carolina State University.
Get it? Stories for vets to tell their talking animals. Maybe someone in the business school will borrow it?
Karen Muller reviews Fables for Leaders in “American Libraries” in her “How We Lead” column. Click here.

© Copyright John Lubans 2018